MAC: Mines and Communities

Anti-Mining Activist Ramiro Rivera Assassinated in Cabañas

Published by MAC on 2009-12-30
Source: CISPES, Media Coop (2009-12-21)

An urgent action on the killing of another anti-mining activist

Anti-Mining Activist Ramiro Rivera Assassinated in Cabañas

Demand an investigation and an end to the murders!

http://www.cispes.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=648&Itemid=1

21 December 2009

Ramiro Rivera Gómez, vice-president of CAC (Comité Ambiental de Cabañas/ the Environmental Committee of Cabañas) and a local leader in the community struggle against the environmentally-destructive gold mining projects proposed by Pacific Rim, was assassinated on Sunday, December 20, 2009 in the Trinidad neighborhood of Ilobasco, in the department of Cabañas where he lived.

Héctor Berríos reports that Ramiro Rivera was killed by hitmen carrying M-16 rifles. Ramiro's thirteen-year old daughter who was with him on Sunday afternoon was also injured but is reportedly in stable condition.

On August 7 of this year, Ramiro Rivera was shot 8 times, but survived the vicious attack. Oscar Menjívar, previously implicated in physical attacks on anti-mining activists, was arrested and charged with Ramiro's attempted murder. Community members report that Menjívar had previously worked for Canadian mining company Pacific Rim; Pacific Rim denies that he has ever been an employee.

Since his recovery, Mr. Rivera had been under the protection of two police officers from the Witnesses and Victims Protection Unit of the National Civilian Police. On the afternoon of December 20th, they were apparently unable to protect him.

Since June of 2009, when anti-mining and FMLN activist Marcelo Rivera (no relation to Ramiro) was found tortured and killed in Cabañas, there have been continued attacks, death threats and attempted kidnappings of community members and activists who have vehemently opposed the proposed El Dorado gold mine. The Ministry of Environment denied mining exploitation permits to Pacific Rim, a Vancouver-based mining company, which subsequently announced a $77 million dollar lawsuit against the Salvadoran government under CAFTA, the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (watch the Real News video here).

Despite the overtly political overtones of this wave of violence, local police authorities and the former Attorney General's office have classified these cases as common crimes. Salvadorans are fearful and outraged by the continued violence but also by the inability or unwillingness of the police and the office of the Attorney General to protect community activists like Ramiro Rivera and to halt the violence.

Join the international response to this repression of anti-mining organizers in Cabañas TODAY. Call on the Salvadoran authorities to carry out an exhaustive investigation of these crimes and their motives.

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TAKE ACTION:

1) E-mail Rodolfo Delgado, head of the Organized Crime unit of the Attorney General's Office (Sample e-mail text at the end of this alert) This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it radelgado@fgr.gob.sv. Please copy Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna to your email, via his front desk: heidybrizuela@pddh.gob.sv

2) Please forward a copy of your sent email to cispes@cispes.org

SAMPLE E-MAIL (English translation below):

Estimado Señor Rodolfo Delgado:

Como miembro de la comunidad internacional, quiero expresar mi profunda preocupación por lo más reciente hecho de violencia contra un líder social en Cabañas, el asesinato de Ramiro Rivera Gómez. Después de que él fue baleado ocho veces en agosto del 2009, fue bajo la protección de la Unidad de Protección de Víctimas y Testigos de la Policía Nacional Civil.

El asesinato de Ramiro Rivera parece otro hecho de violencia sistemático que ha traspasado en Cabañas desde el junio de este año: el secuestro y brutal asesinato del activista Gustavo Marcelo Rivera; las amenazas de muerte a periodistas de Radio Victoria, al director de la Asociación de Desarrollo Económico y Social Santa Marta (ADES) y a varios líderes comunitarios de Cabañas; el sabotaje al sistema electrónico de Radio Victoria; y los intentos de asesinato de los líderes comunitarios, Padre Luis Quintanilla y Ramiro Rivera.

Considero que existen suficientes evidencias para presumir que el asesinato de Ramiro Rivera y los demás crímenes están relacionados y forman parte de una campaña para intimidar a las organizaciones sociales en Cabañas. Es preocupante que la Fiscalía, bajo la dirección de Ástor Escalante, adjudicó a priori estos crímenes a la violencia común, ignorando las evidencias y antecedentes presentados que indican la naturaleza política de los eventos.

Por lo tanto como miembro de la comunidad internacional, hago un llamado para que ahora bajo la dirección del nuevo Fiscal General de la República Romeo Barahona, la Fiscalía realice una investigación imparcial, exhaustiva y efectiva en el caso del asesinato de Ramiro Rivera y de todos estos casos, para dar a conocer a los autores intelectuales y materiales de estos crímenes y garantizar así la protección de los líderes sociales en la región de forma verdadera.

Después del asesinato de Marcelo Rivera en junio, más de cien organizaciones de los Estados Unidos y Canadá mandaron una carta a la Fiscalía expresando su preocupación grave con los atropellos a los derechos humanos. También el Congresista Jim McGovern de los Estados Unidos expresó la misma preocupación en reuniones con el Señor Fiscal General, Romeo Barahona, y representantes de la Administración del Señor Presidente Mauricio Funes, durante su visita reciente a El Salvador.

También le estoy mandando una copia de este mensaje al señor Procurador para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, licenciado Oscar Humberto Luna, quien ha mostrado un compromiso fuerte para proteger la seguridad y los derechos humanos de los líderes sociales en Cabañas.

De quedar estos eventos en la impunidad, se estaría generando un clima de temor e incertidumbre para los demás líderes comunitarios, contrarrestando así los avances logrados en el proceso de democratización del país.

Agradezco de antemano sus gestiones para agilizar las investigaciones y espero que pronto se haga justicia en estos casos y se brinde protección a las víctimas y reparación a los familiares de Ramiro.

[Tu nombre/ Your name]

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Translation of Email:

As a member of the international community, I want to express my profound concern about the most recent act of violence toward a community leader in Cabañas: the assassination of Ramiro Rivera Gómez. After being shot eight times in August, Mr. Rivera was under the protection of the Victims and Witnesses Protection Unit of the National Civilian Police.

The assassination of Ramiro Rivera appears to be another systematic act of violence that has occurred in Cabañas since June of this year: the kidnapping and brutal assassination of the activist Gustavo Marcelo Rivera; the death threats against journalists at Radio Victoria, the director of the Association for Social and Economic Development (ADES) and other community leaders in Cabañas; the sabotage of the broadcasting equipment at Radio Victoria; and the assassination attempt against the community leaders Father Luis Quintanilla and Ramiro Rivera.

I believe there is sufficient evidence to assume that Ramiro Rivera's murder and the other crimes are linked and part of a campaign to intimidate community organizations in Cabañas. It is alarming that the Attorney General's Office under the direction of former acting Attorney General Ástor Escalante attributed these crimes to common violence, ignoring the evidence and antecedents that indicate the political nature of these events.

Therefore as a member of the international community, I now call on the Attorney General's Office under the leadership of new Attorney General Romeo Barahona to carry out impartial, exhaustive and effective investigations of the assassination of Ramiro Rivera and all of these crimes in order to bring to justice the intellectual and material authors of these crimes and guarantee the protection of other community leaders in the region.

After the assassination of Marcelo Rivera in June, over 100 organizations in the U.S. and Canada sent a letter to the Attorney General's office expressing their serious concern about the human rights abuses. Representative Jim McGovern of the U.S. Congress expressed the same concern in his meetings with Mr. Attorney General Romeo Barahona and with representatives of the administration of Mr. President Mauricio Funes during his recent visit to El Salvador.

I am sending a copy of this message to the Human Rights Ombudsman, Mr. Oscar Luna, who has shown a strong commitment to protect the security and human rights of social movement leaders in Cabañas.

Leaving these crimes in a state of impunity creates a climate of fear and uncertainty for the rest of the community leaders, undermining the advances in the democratic process in El Salvador.

I thank you in advance for your efforts to speed up the investigations and I hope that there will soon be justice in these cases and that the victims' lives will be protected and Ramiro's family will be compensated for their loss.

[Your name]


Opponent to Canadian Pacific Rim Assassinated in El Salvador

Ramiro Rivera shot while under police protection

by Moira Peters, MediaCoop.ca

21 December 2009

Another citizen opponent to mining in Latin America has been assassinated. Another Canadian miner is implicated in the murder.

Yesterday at 4 pm, Ramiro Rivera Gomez, Vice President of the Environmental Committee of Cabanas (ACC), was gunned down and killed in Canton Trinidad, a village in Cabanas, El Salvador.

Rivera was a leader in the resistance to Canadian mining company Pacific Rim Mining Corporation, which has been trying to secure permits for its El Dorado gold mine in Cabanas.

The company initially met with resistance from residents of Trinidad when test drilling resulted in their wells drying up. Some wells were poisoned, resulting in stillborn calves and dead livestock.

"Pacific Rim's primary asset and focus of its growth strategy," states the company on its website, "is the high grade, vein-hosted El Dorado gold project in El Salvador."

This was not the first time Rivera suffered physical attacks by individuals connected to Pacific Rim. In August, he was shot eight times in the back in front of his house. He identified one of his attackers as Oscar Menjivar (http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/2049/1/), who has relationships with local mayors in favour of opening the El Dorado mine.

Nor was this an isolated incident of violence with respect to Pacific Rim's activities in the region. In June, the body of environmentalist Gustavo Marcelo Rivera Moreno was found in a well, with signs of torture. In July, priest Luis Alberto Quintanilla survived an attempted kidnapping and assassination. In April, 2008, Santos Rodriguez, a farmer, was attacked by Menjivar, who cut off two of his fingers with a machete (http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2094). Members of Radio Victoria, a community radio station, have been threatened by mail, text messages and phone calls over the past months.

Rivera was under 24-hour police protection at the time of his murder. Neither of the two National Civil Police who were protecting him were injured. A 14-year-old girl who was with Rivera at the time of the shooting was wounded.

Violence toward opponents of Pacific Rim's mining operations is escalating. More disturbing, says Movimiento Unificado Francisco Sánchez-1932 (MUFRAS-32) in a press release yesterday, is the attitude of local authorities, who claim this incident was a common crime. Rivera Moreno's murder in June prompted a similar statement from authorities: "The incident was a result of random violence and there exists no evidence of intellectual authorship." They refused to pursue other lines of investigation, according to the press release, and the community "has been given enough clues to point to the existence of an intellectual author" of the murder.

Pacific Rim announced its intention to sue the state of El Salvador "in the hundreds of millions of dollars," according to the company's April 30 press release, for violations of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. "Sadly," reads the release, "it is not just the rights of Pac Rim that are being compromised, but the rights of all Salvadorans... The people of our local communities are being denied the benefits of over 400 recently active exploration jobs, approximately 600 jobs to develop and operate the mine, and the benefits of numerous community and social programs."

The release goes on: "... [I]n the past nine months we have been forced to displace over 400 local workers in the single poorest region of El Salvador..."

"We are committed to responsible mining that can put the people of Cabanas back to work in these extremely difficult economic times," states CEO Tom Shrake, in a November press release. "El Salvador has tremendous gold wealth that can be translated to jobs and economic prosperity in the poorest region of the country in a safe and responsible manner."

The price of gold peaked in November at $1282 per ounce, after a rapid climb from $600 per ounce in 2006.

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